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Ballistix Tactical Tracer RGB DDR4 Review - Where Speed and Style Collide

By Christopher Coke on April 27, 2018 | Columns | Comments

Ballistix Tactical Tracer RGB DDR4 Review - Where Speed and Style Collide

Ballistix is one of the most well-known DRAM brands on the market. Over the years, they’ve developed a sterling reputation for delivering high-performance DRAM modules with unmatched support and reliability. Today, we’re looking at their most stylish DDR4 kit to date with the Ballistix Tactical Tracer DDR4 RGB kit. We threw 32GB into our benchmark system to see exactly how it held up. Here’s how it did.

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Specifications

  • MSRP: $437.99 (range: $163 - $1075)
  • Density: 8/16GB available in 2-piece or 4-piece kits
  • Speed: DDR4-2666, DDR4-3000
  • Latency: 16-18-18
  • Voltage: 1.2V
  • Bandwidth: PC4-21300 (2600), PC4-24000
  • Illumination: Yes, RGB (removable/replaceable diffuser)
  • Software control: Yes, Ballistix MOD Utility
  • Warranty: Limited Lifetime

Ballistix have finally released their RGB-enabled memory kit after revealing it nearly one year ago. In that time, users have been waiting to see exactly what the they would bring to the table. As a child company of Micron, one of the biggest and most respected memory manufacturers in the world, expectations were understandably high.

We received our kit about a week ago and have had the chance to put it through its paces. We’re impressed, both in looks and functionality. Out of the box, Ballistix’ Tactical Tracer RGB kit features a tasteful diffused between each half of the heat spreader. Inside, we find 16 individual LEDs divided into eight customizable zones. If you have a 3D printer, Ballistix even makes the 3D printing files available in case you’d like to customize your own insert.  You can also remove the diffuser entirely if you’d rather see the direct LEDs.


The lighting is fully customizable using the intuitive M.O.D. Utility, which also opens up performance monitoring. You can choose from a number of presets or set  your own colors for each zone to really make it your own. They look great, especially next to a water cooled CPU. One thing to be aware of, though, is that they’re not low profile and may be incompatible with some large air coolers.

Our friends over at Vortez have a great demonstration video, showing off some of the lighting effects.

When it comes to performance, these modules are available in either 2666 or 3000 MHz speeds with densities from 8-64GB. We received the 2666 MHz, 32GB kit for our testing purposes. Either kit speed would be a good choice for gaming with the 2666 MHz sets coming in slightly cheaper but offering virtually identical framerate performance. CAS timings come in at 16-18-18, which isn’t the fastest on the market but still delivers respectable results on synthetic benchmarks and amply provides for gaming scenarios. 

Performance Testing

Test system: i7-7700k at 4.5GHz, MSI Z270 Gaming M7 Motherboard, GTX-1080Ti (SLI), 500GB Samsung 960 EVO, 3TB HDD, Corsair HX-1050 1050-watt PSU

Memory kits compared: 64GB Ballistix Elite DDR4-3200, 16GB G.Skill RipJaws V  DDR4-3200, 32GB Ballistix Tactical Tracer DDR4-2666 RGB

In order to test our memory, we run through a number of benchmarks. These include PCMark 8’s Conventional and Express tests, AIDA64, and SuperPi. While these benchmarks (excepting AIDA64) also benchmark the CPU, RAM performance is a key factor in the scores being rendered. We also do in-game benchmark testing, though we’ll save that for discussion following the presented charts. For our purposes, we’re comparing our Tracer kit against the data from our last two DRAM test runs in our benchmarking system.

Our assessments are not “point for point” in that we’re looking at both a new capacity and DRAM speed with our new Tracer memory kit. The kit is high capacity, coming in at 32GB, but falls squarely between the our 16GB from G.Skill and the 64GB kit of Ballistix Elite we tested last year. While the two prior kits come in at 3200MHz speeds,  our kit today is slightly slower at 2666MHz. All of the kits feature the same 3200MHz clock rate and 16-18-18-38 CAS latency timings.  With all of that in mind, we expected some disparity but were curious how meaningful those capacity and speed differences would ultimately be. Here’s how they did.

AIDA64 benchmarks memory speeds and latencies, as well as cache speeds related to your CPU. Note that we’re looking at GB/s. After several runs to test consistency, we find that the Ballistix Tactical kit is actually slightly faster than the Ballistix Elite with an average read speed of 41.6 GB/s. It falls just short in writes, however, coming in at 43.19 GB/s.

PC Mark is a whole system test that looks at comparatively low intensity tasks. Office use, web browsing, things that you wouldn’t necessarily tax a gaming system; thereby, the emphasis here really is on memory speed versus capacity. As expected, the new Tracer kit falls slightly short due to the slower 2666MHz clock speed while still putting out respectable results.

The SuperPi test looks at how fastly a system can render the digits of Pi. In our case, we’re set to render up to 32 million digits. The kits all performed remarkably similar here with the Tracer kit coming in just under our 64GB Ballistix Elite.

In-Game Testing and Performance Conclusions

We tested each of these kits in our usual array of MMORPGs as well as a handful of single-player games released this year. As in our last memory kit review, we found that our framerates at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K resolutions were so close as to hover around our margin of error, universally within 1-5 frames of each other. This isn’t surprising.

Our test bench for this review featured the Intel Z270 chipset and was powered by a Core i7-7700K. The difference between a DRAM speed of 2666MHz and 3200MHz in real world gaming scenarios is far less evident than in synthetic benchmarks, as seen in the charts above. It’s true that 3200MHz will offer a performance increase over a similarly specced 2666MHz kit on such tests, though we’d advise gamers not to get too hung up on getting the fastest possible speed just for gaming purposes. For sheer framerates, investing those funds in an upgraded graphics card is a much wiser investment.

In our benchmarking, the Ballistix Tactical Tracer kit fell expectedly short due to the slower 2666MHz clock speed. In an apples for apples assessment, it’s likely that these gaps would close and users wanting the cutting edge may want to consider the slightly faster 3000MHz kits. Yet, in practical use, there is no definable difference in how any of these kits make your system feel, which really makes the more meaningful concern how they enhance the look of your system.

In that regard, Ballistix’ Tactical Tracer RGB kits look fantastic. The M.O.D. Utility gives you a great amount of control over the custom lighting effects being displays and we had no trouble customizing it to fit the rest of our RGB setup. Adding in the ease of use and out-of-the-box compatibility, this memory kit is an easy way to boost the performance and looks of any system in need of an upgrade.

Pros

  • Fantastic look - in lighting and heatspreader
  • Easy to install and set to the proper speed
  • Intuitive M.O.D. Utility
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • You can 3D print your own diffuser or not use one at all - neat!

Cons

  • Comes in at a premium

The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.